The new Normal

Picture this…

You’re back in elementary school again, and it’s a day just like any other…

Your mom opens up the door of your room at 6:00 in the morning and gently shakes you awake.

“Ugh,” you groan, still half asleep.

“C’mon sweetheart you have to get up for school,” she says in a soothing voice.

Drowsily, you yawn, sit up, stretch, try and wipe the sleep from your eyes, and follow your mom to the kitchen as she pours you a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal as she does every morning. After you eat your cereal, you drag your feet into the bathroom where you brush your teeth, wash your face, and put on the clothes that your mom picked out for you to wear the previous night. By the time you put your final shoe on your foot and tie the shoe laces you finally start to wake up. With a little bit more pep in your step, you walk to the front of your home, grab your backpack with your favorite TV show character on it and the matching lunch box and you climb into the back seat of your mom’s car.

As you arrive at school you immediately find your closest friends. You laugh and talk about what you did over the weekend. You had a particularly great weekend because you got to go to your next door neighbor’s birthday party and play in the bounce house until your legs turned to jelly.

The sound of the bell signals the start of the day, and you and the rest of your classmates march into the classroom in a single file line. Once you’re inside, you take off your backpack and put it and your lunchbox inside of your cubbie. As you take your seat next to the same curly headed boy that you do everyday, you nearly miss seeing the unfamiliar face that’s standing up in the front of your classroom next to your teacher.

“Good morning class,” your teacher says, once the class has settled down, “we have a new student with us here today. Do you want to introduce yourself to the class?” she asks the little girl with big brown eyes and the pig tails.

The girl standing beside your teacher stands up as straight as she can and in a squeaky voice she says, “My name is Jane.”

“And what do we say class?” your teacher prods.

“Hi Jaaannne,” you respond in perfect unison with the rest of your classmates.

“Hi,” she squeaks back.

“Jane is a new student. She just moved here with her family from Austin, Texas,” your teacher continues. “Why don’t you tell us something interesting about yourself Jane?”

Before Jane addresses the class you happen to notice just has strangely she’s dressed. Unlike the rest of your classmates, Jane is wearing a bright pink, yellow, and red highlighter zigzagged shirt. And while everyone else who was wearing shorts had shorts that were just one color, Jane’s shorts were blue on the left side and green on the right. And to top it all off she was wearing one black ankle sock and one purple knee high sock underneath her orange tennis shoes. “I was born on the planet Padrumdtow, but my earth parents and I lived in Austin until last week. In my free time they make me participate in your earthling game called soccer, but I long to find someone who enjoys playing, smeltpom, my planet’s number one recreational activity.”

When she finishes, your mouth drops slightly open from shock, and you hear your classmates around you start to giggle.

“Why are you dressed like that?” one of the boys shouts from the back of the classroom.

Everyone around you giggles some more, but you wait patiently to hear Jane’s response. She shrugs and says, “I don’t like to match my clothes because it reminds me of my home planet.”

Again, your classmates start to giggle and talk about your new classmates in hushed voices, but one stern look from your teacher silences all of the excess talking and laughter. “Thank you for sharing with us Jane. You can have a seat next to Becky,” she says indicating the empty chair in the third row.

The rest of your day you pay close attention to Jane, but you make sure to keep your distance. You watch from afar as she eats her spaghetti with her hands during lunch. You glance over your shoulder during art and you happen to see her pink and purple picture of a six legged creature that she drew when your teacher told your class to draw a picture of your favorite animal. And you silently watch her during gym class as she completes the mandatory lap by walking backwards.

At the end of the day, you stand outside with the rest of your classmates as you patiently wait for your mom to pick you up. As you see her car approaching, you say goodbye to your friends and run up to the back door of your mom’s car and wait for her to unlock it so that you can jump inside.

“How was your day?” she asks as you as you fasten your seatbelt.

With excited vigor, you quickly recant your day with the new student with as much detail as you can conjure up. “She’s just so strange, and the teacher didn’t even do anything to stop her,” you say with surprise as you finish telling your mother about Jane.

“Well honey, she just marches to the beat of her own drum, and your teacher wants to embrace that, and so should you.”

Have you ever heard the saying “march to the beat of your own drum”? In case you haven’t, it refers to the scene painted above. Whenever somebody is different than the majority, they are said to “march to the beat of their own drum.” And even if you happen to be just a little bit different, someone still might tell you that, “you march to the beat of your own drum.”

Usually when it’s said, it is said with a negative connotation. Everyone who knows this phrase also knows that when these words are uttered that it’s just a nice way of saying that a person is strange, weird or off kilter.  That’s what this simple phrase means to the rest of the world, but in my opinion, it really shouldn’t. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we embraced everyone’s differences instead of trying to squash them? Can you imagine how much better we could make people feel if we made them feel good about being different instead of making them feel ashamed of it? Instead of pointing and talking about these individuals behind their backs (or to their faces) we should praise them for having enough courage to be themselves.

Positive thinker, your normal doesn’t necessarily have to be someone else’s normal, and that’s okay. Your normal can be serious or quirky or withdrawn or risk-taking, but whatever it is, you should embrace it. While some of us fit in more with what our society’s standard of “normal” is, others of us do not, but whatever your normal is, it’s great because it allows you to be you.

We’re all different. And it would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone’s differences were embraced, but even though that’s not the case, it shouldn’t stop you from embracing your own differences because if you choose not to then you’re also choosing not to live your truest, most authentic, best life that you can live. Positive thinker, you don’t want to walk around the world trying to fit into someone else’s definition of what “normal” is because when you do that you can’t be yourself, and when you can’t be yourself, you’re also not giving yourself the opportunity to experience your life in the way that it should be lived— with you as your complete self.

It takes a lot of courage to stray away from the crowd and to embrace yourself for who you truly are positive thinker. It takes a lot to love yourself for being different.

Yeah you’re different…

So what?

Being different is what makes you you!

And always remember, “Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself.”

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